We pass by a period of several years. The number of years we cannot tell, but Isaac, the child of faith and promise had been born, and had grown to be a young man. Abraham’s faith had grown stronger and more intelligent, for he had learned that God fulfills His own promises. But God is a faithful teacher, and does not allow His pupils to leave a lesson until it is thoroughly learned. It is not enough for them to see and acknowledge that they have made a mistake in the lesson that He has given them. Such acknowledgment of course insures forgiveness; but, having seen the error, they must go over the same ground again, and possibly many times, until they have learned it so well that they can do without stumbling. It is solely for their own good. It is no kindness on the part of a parent or teacher to allow his children to pass by lessons that are unlearned, simply because they are difficult. So “it came to pass after these things, that God did prove Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham; and he said, Here am I. And He said, Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest, even Isaac, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.” Gen. 22:1, 2.
The Sign of Circumcision: And now we must carry a little further the study of the seal of the covenant, namely, circumcision. What does it signify, and what is it in reality? We have learned that it signifies righteousness by faith. It was given to Abraham as a token of the possession of such righteousness, or, as an assurance that he was “accepted in the Beloved, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” Eph. 1:6, 7. What circumcision really is, may be learned from the following Scripture : — “For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law; but if thou be a breaker of the law thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? And shall not uncircumcision, which is by nature, if it fulfill the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” Rom. 2:25-29.
A Grant of Land: But in this covenant the central promise was concerning land. All the land of Canaan was promised to Abraham and his seed for an everlasting possession. And then the seal of the covenant, —circumcision, — was given, — a seal of the righteousness which he had by faith. This shows that the land of Canaan was to be possessed only by faith. And here we have a practical lesson as to the possession of things by faith. Many people think that a thing that is possessed by faith is only possessed in imagination. But the land of Canaan was a real country, and was to be actually possessed. Possession of it was to be gained, however, only through faith. This was indeed the case. By faith the people crossed the river Jordan, and “by faith the walls of Jerico fell down, after they were compassed about seven days.” But of this we shall have more hereafter.
“Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children; and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said unto Abram, behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing; I pray thee go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened unto the voice of Sarai.” Gen. 16:1, 2. This was the great mistake of Abraham’s life; but he learned a lesson from his mistake, and it was recorded to teach that lesson to all. In the first place, we should learn the folly of man’s trying to fulfill the promises of God. God had promised to Abraham an innumerable seed. When the promise was made, it was beyond all human possibility that Abraham should have a son by his wife, but he accepted the word of the Lord, and his faith was counted to him for righteousness. This in itself was evidence that the seed was not to be an ordinary seed, but that it was to be a seed of faith.
The fifteenth chapter of Genesis contains the first account of the covenant made with Abraham. “The word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not Abram; I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” Notice the statement that God said that He Himself was Abraham’s reward. If we are Christ’s, then we are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Heirs of what? — “Heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.” Rom. 8:17. The same inheritance is mentioned by the Psalmist: “The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance.” Ps. 16:5. So here again we have a link to connect all God’s people with Abraham. Their hope is nothing else but the promise of God to him.
Everywhere Abraham went, he built an altar to the Lord. As you read this, remember that the promise that all nations should be blessed in Abraham, specified even families. The religion of Abraham was a family religion. The family altar was never neglected in his household. This is not an empty figure of speech, but comes from the practice of the fathers to whom the promise was made, and of which we are partakers if we are of their faith and practice. An Example for Parents: God said of Abraham, “For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him” (Gen. 18:19).
The Promise To Abraham: In studying this promise, two portions of Scripture must ever be kept in mind. The first is the words of Jesus: “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.” “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” (John 5:39, 46-47 NKJV). The only Scriptures in the days of Christ were the books now known as the Old Testament; these testify of Him. They were given for no other purpose. The Apostle Paul wrote that they are able to make men wise to salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 3:15); and among those writings the books of Moses are specially pointed out by the Lord as revealing Him. He who reads the writings of Moses, and the entire Old Testament, with any other expectation than to find Christ, and the way of life through Him, will utterly fail of understanding them. His reading will be in vain.
Redemption means to buy back. And what is to be bought back? Evidently that which was lost; for that is what the Lord came to save. And what was lost? Man, for one thing; “for thus says the Lord: “You have sold yourselves for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money” (Isa. 52:3). What else was lost? Necessarily all that man had. And what was that? “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:26–28). This was man’s original dominion, but it was not retained. In the Epistle to the Hebrews we have these words of the Psalmist quoted in the following passage: — “For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels. But one testified in a certain place, saying: “What is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that You take care of him? You have made him a little lower [or, “for a little while lower”] than the angels; You have crowned him with glory and honor, and set him over the works of Your hands. You have put all things in subjection under his feet.” For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower [or, “for a little while lower”] than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone” (Heb. 2:5–9 NKJV & R.V.).
When the humble shepherds on the plains of Bethlehem were astonished by the shining of the glory of the Lord round about them, as they watched their flocks by night, their fears were quieted by the voice of the angel of the Lord, who said, “Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2.10,11. The words, “good tidings,” are from the one Greek word which elsewhere is rendered “Gospel;” so that we might properly read the message of the angel thus: “Behold, I bring you the Gospel of great joy, which shall be to all people.” In that announcement to the shepherds we learn several important things. 1. That the Gospel is a message that brings joy. “The kingdom of God is . . . righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Christ is anointed “with the oil of gladness,” and He gives “the oil of joy for mourning.” 2. It is a message of salvation from sin. For before this time the same angels had foretold to Joseph the birth of this infant, and had said, “Thou shall call his name Jesus; for He shall save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1.21. 3. It is something which concerns everybody, —“which shall be to all people.” “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3.16. This is assurance enough for everybody.
"For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren." The word "predestinate" is the same as "foreordain," which is found in the Revised Version. Volumes of speculation have been written about these terms, but a few words are sufficient to set forth the facts. With respect to these, as well as the other attributes of God, it is sufficient for us to know the fact. With the explanation we have nothing to do. That God knows all things is plainly set forth in the Scripture. Not only does he know the things that are past, but he sees the future as well. Freedom to do right implies freedom to do wrong. If a man were made so that he could not do wrong, he would have no freedom at all, not even to do right. He would be less than the brutes. There is no virtue in forced obedience, nor would there be any virtue in doing that which is right if it were impossible to do wrong. Moreover, there could be no pleasure or satisfaction in the professed friendship of two persons if one associated with the other just because he could not avoid it. The joy of the Lord in the companionship of his people is that they of their own free-will choose him above all others. And that which is the joy of the Lord is the joy of His people.
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